What You, As A Business Owner, Should Know About Copyright

Having at least a basic knowledge of Intellectual Property Law (IP) is inevitable if you want to lead your business. Today, in the era of information, almost all creative work that you do, including products, services, and technologies, are protected by one of the four IP Laws (trademark, trade secret, copyright, and patent). It differs a lot from “real estate” law, which regulates physical attributes, and it is a little bit harder to understand. Here is a little you should know about Copyright 101 for beginner businessman:

1. What Does It Cover?

If you have business that is creating any of the following, it is automatically protected by the copyright law, once it is created: literary works (including books, web pages, IT programs, etc.), artistic works (musical, dramatic, visual works), videos and broadcasts, databases, typographical arrangements, etc. Any medium that is used to create any of the above work is covered by the law (including internet). However, there are plenty of things that copyright does not cover, such as ideas, names, phrases (these are covered by trademarks), industrial processes and products (these are covered by patent registration). A good thing about copyright is that, unlike other IP Laws, it is an automatic right once the work has been created. therefore, it does not need registration. The time during which the work is protected differs depending on the form of work, and where and when it has been created. Usually, it is around 70 years upon the death of the creator that the work is protected.

2. Is It Beneficial To Your Business?

Works protected by copyright can be a perpetual money spinner for your business. If your company own any kind of works that have any commercial value – such as advertising catchy sound, video work or design – you can manage how and when it is used in advertisements (or anywhere else). It means that every time someone plays your sound, or uses your design (of course, with your authorization), you can charge it. If they play it on the radio ten times, you charge it ten times. Basically, you are the owner of copyrights, but you get to decide who can use it and how. It also means that contractors cannot use, rent, perform or reprint your work without your approval. Given that copyright is a property right, it is eligible for sale, license, transfer or inheritance.

3. When Should You Register?

Although registering your work is not necessary, as it is automatically protected by the law, registration also has its own benefits. Marking your work with watermark will clarify to other people that it is protected by copyright. Especially if you publish it online. Registration is mostly beneficial for companies that have commercial value work, but it also very gainful in other aspects. Copyright registration provides you with civil damages and lawyer’s expenses if you ever have to require your copyright law. On top of that, it is not easy to find an attorney to work on your case, unless you previously registered your work (before someone illegally used it). That is because once your work is registered it means substantial statutory damage (talking $100,000,00 or more), which makes it much more attractive for the lawyer. Whereas there are lawyers who will want to work “on contingency”, which means that you pay them with part of damages award after the case (if you win), they are still pretty rare to find. If you are not lucky enough to find them, you will have to prepare a large amount of money upfront, for attorney’s fees. All these benefits will probably make you think about registration more seriously. Although taking into consideration that a lot of companies produce a significant amount of content every day, that should be registered, it is not an easy choice.

4. Copyright Infringement

Violating the copyright law will put you at high risk of heavy penalization. That is to say, if you use, perform, or copy the work in any way (or the substantial part of it), without granted permission from the author, you are probably going to end up in big trouble. In other words, you cannot: rent, sell, lend copies of the work; perform a play/show to the public; broadcast it, or make any adaptations of work – without permission that is. You will have to pay high compensations to the owner of copyrights, to say the least. There is a little bit of confusion regarding copyrights when it comes to “substantial part” of the work. Although it is not defined in copyright law, it means a qualitatively big part of work. Furthermore, even a very small part is likely to be a subject to copyright law. probably the most common copyright violation is copying software and using it for free, with no license. Another common misuse of the copyrighted work is playing the music in public (coffee shops, restaurants, clubs, etc.). Plenty of newbie business owners are not even aware of this and are most likely to do it unintentionally.

5. How To Deal With Infringement?

Making sure that you are doing everything to protect your work is number one when it comes to preventing copyright violation. That is why registration may be a great option. Therefore even when it comes to infringement, you still have a lot of benefits regarding lawyer and penalty fees. The first step to take if you believe that your work has been unlawfully reproduced is to ask for advice from a specialist. They will advise you to send the warning letter to the violator. It may be the case that they have done it unintentionally and that they will stop even before lawyers, courts, and all that mess. Of course, if that does not work, you should proceed with your case, seeking further legal advice from more specialized attorneys, as Actuate IP Trademark lawyers are. If you end up in court and win the case, you will most likely end up with awarded damages and injunction to the misusage of your work. Even though it may sound easy, court cases are very expensive and they drain a lot of your energy and time. Work your best to try to avoid it by negotiating with other parties, and coming to some kind of understanding. There is more likely that they will accept it, as they have their entire integrity and plenty of money to lose. In some rare cases, negotiation even led to damaged parties to agree to license the material for the other party to use.

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Understanding the law structure can be confusing and hard sometimes, especially if the nature of your business has nothing to do with it. However, having knowledge about copyright and IP laws is one of the first things that you have to start implementing. It will prevent your business from conducting a copyright violation, and it will lead your company to success by stopping your intellectual property being misused. If you still find it hard to understand the basics of copyrights and Intellectual Property Laws, you can always seek additional information from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). They can provide you with comprehensive guidance on any area that you are struggling with to understand.

David Koller

David Koller is a passionate blogger and copywriter for Media Gurus, mainly interested in SEO and Digital Marketing.

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13 thoughts on “What You, As A Business Owner, Should Know About Copyright

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